Lockerbie relatives welcome US court decision

RELATIVES of the Lockerbie victims last night welcomed an American jury's finding of 'wilful misconduct' by Pan Am as a major step forward in their fight for adequate compensation.

Jim Swire, the British representative of the relatives, said last night: 'It is an important victory. It opens the way for substantial compensation claims, but more than that, it means airlines will at last take security seriously because it will cost too much not to.'

After three days of deliberation the jury in Brooklyn ruled in favour of the relatives of the 270 victims of Flight 103, who sued the airline claiming the baggage handling had suffered from lax security. An unaccompanied suitcase held the bomb that exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988.

The result could open the way to multi-million dollar damages claims against the Pan Am insurer, United States Aviation Insurance Group (USAIG). The airline is no longer flying. Airlines throughout the world could be forced to review their security in light of the ruling.

Another trial will be needed to assess any damages claim, and none has yet been scheduled.

Dr Swire said that money alone could never compensate for the loss of a relative, but welcomed the implications the ruling would have for airline security.

He said technology able to identify unaccompanied baggage - similar to that containing the Lockerbie bomb - already existed. But it was not being widely installed at airports because of the costs involved. He said the threat of having to settle massive compensation claims in the wake of the decision in the New York case would give airline companies and their insurers a financial incentive to introduce new security systems.

'It sickens me that these changes are spurred for financial rather than humanitarian reasons, but that's just the way it is.'

Peter Watson, British lawyer for the families, said on the BBC that the decision would force airlines to tighten security.

'It's a warning to the airline industry that if their security is as lax, poor and haphazard as Pan Am's was on this occasion, then they face fearful damages. That is the only way a court can bring this home to an airline.'

Yesterday's verdict was greeted with sighs of relief by the many relatives and friends of the victims who crowded the courtroom. The suit sought up to dollars 500m ( pounds 277m) in damages from the airline, which would be paid by the USAIG.

Under international treaties the amount of damages is limited to dollars 75,000 ( pounds 40,000) for each victim, but the 'wilful misconduct' verdict means that much higher damages can now be paid.

The outcome of the trial in the US also strengthens the case against Libya. The insurance company tried to persuade the jury that the bomb was put on the aircraft in London or Frankfurt because of a slip-up in a drug operation mounted by American intelligence and that there was little the airline could have done to prevent the bombing.

Lawyers for the families argued that Pan Am was criminally negligent in its security procedures at Frankfurt and elsewhere around the world, making it possible for a bomb to be put on board the flight from a connecting airline. The defence team believes, as do the Scottish police, that the bomb was placed on a flight in Malta and checked through to New York via Frankfurt and London.

Two Libyan intelligence agents have been charged in Scottish and American courts with engineering the bombing and Libya's refusal to hand them over for trial has led to sanctions being imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?